Badwater Ultramarathon Returning to Death Valley


One of the big stories from the ultrarunning world earlier this year was the news that the Badwater Ultramarathon had been barred from taking place in its traditional environment – Death Valley National Park. In an effort to increase safety throughout the park, a comprehensive review of all events taking place within Death Vally was conducted, which included a number of running and cycling competitions. While that review was taking place, the Badwater was forced to use an alternate route for the 2014 event, and for a time it looked like that route could become permanent. Last week however, it was announced that the race will return to its traditional route in 2015, with only a few minor changes to operations.

In August, a report on the findings for the safety review in Death Valley indicated that sporting events taking place in the month of July – when the Badwater traditionally is run – could be permanently banned. That’s when the temperatures in the park are at their hottest, and conditions are most dangerous for those participating. At the time the report was released, the future of the ultramarathon continuing in Death Valley looked grim, and it seemed it wouldn’t even be able to start in the small town from which is garnered its name.

But now it seems the Park Service has granted the Badwater a reprieve, and the event will take place more or less as usual. The 2015 edition of the race will be held July 28-30, with a route that begins in Badwater Basin, 86 meters (282 feet) below sea level, and ends at the Mt. Whitney Portals located at 2530 metes (8300 ft). Along the way, it covers some 217 km (135 miles) through one of the harshest, driest environments on the planet.

Race officials indicated that the Badwater would have a three-wave start, with runners setting off in the evening. They indicated that participants wouldn’t notice any other significant changes to the event, although behind the scenes there has been more bureaucracy and expense taken on by the AdventureCORPS team that puts on the race. Other than that however, it is business as usual for the ultra-event.

It’s good to see the Badwater return to its traditional home and route. The event was never in danger of going away, but for decades it has been run along the route from the basin to Mt. Whitney, and it is nice to see it able to continue along that path. I commend the National Park Service for taking safety seriously, but the AdventureCORPS team has been running this race for a long time, and they have proven time and again that they know what they are doing. Safety remains a chief concern of all involved, and will continue to do so as long as the Badwater continues to operate.

Kraig Becker